Revolutionary 3D Printed Gripper: No Electronics Needed, Ready to Use

The Soft Robotic Gripper: A Breakthrough in 3D Printing and Robotics

The Soft Robotic Gripper: A Breakthrough in 3D Printing and Robotics


In a groundbreaking development, a team of roboticists from the University of California San Diego, in collaboration with researchers from the BASF corporation, have created a soft robotic gripper that can be 3D printed in a single print without the need for electronics. This innovative gripper, described in a recent issue of Science Robotics, is equipped with gravity and touch sensors and is capable of picking up, holding, and releasing objects, making it the first of its kind.

Features and Functionality

The team designed the gripper with built-in functions that utilize a series of valves to enable both gripping and releasing of objects. This functionality is triggered by simply turning the gripper horizontally, which changes the airflow in the valves and causes the two fingers of the gripper to release. The gripper also has fluidic logic that allows it to remember when it has grasped an object and automatically release it when it detects the weight of the object pushing to the side during rotation.

Significance and Applications

This soft robotic gripper holds great promise for allowing robots to safely interact with humans and delicate objects. It can be mounted on a robotic arm for various industrial manufacturing applications, food production, handling of fruits and vegetables, as well as research and exploration tasks. Notably, it can operate untethered, with a bottle of high-pressure gas as its sole power source, making it highly versatile.

Furthermore, the team overcame common challenges associated with 3D-printed soft robots, such as stiffness, leaks, and the need for extensive processing and assembly after printing. They developed a new 3D printing method that involves the printer nozzle tracing a continuous path through the entire pattern of each layer, similar to drawing a picture without lifting the pencil off the page. This method reduces the likelihood of leaks and defects, while also enabling the printing of thin walls down to 0.5 millimeters in thickness. The thinner walls and complex, curved shapes allow for a higher range of deformation and result in a softer overall structure.

In summary, this breakthrough in 3D printing and robotics opens up new possibilities for the development of safe and efficient soft robots. With its unique features and applications, the soft robotic gripper represents a significant advancement in the field of artificial intelligence and robotics.

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